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Isabel's Skin Hardcover – 30 Aug 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Alma Books Ltd (30 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846882060
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846882067
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,618,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Benson's story is a spine-tingler complete with macabre twist and dastardly villain, but one shot through with musings on the beauty of our bucolic vistas.' --The Independent

'This classic gothic novel is perhaps best kept on the bed stand until the nights turn windier, colder, to be read, hot toddy to hand, by flickering candlelight.' --Regency Magazine

About the Author

Born in 1956, Peter Benson was educated in Ramsgate, Canterbury and Exeter. His first novel, The Levels, won the Guardian Fiction Prize. This was followed by A Lesser Dependency, winner of the Encore award, The Other Occupant, which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Award, and three more novels: Odo's Hanging, Riptide and A Private Moon. He has also published short stories, screenplays and poetry, and his work has been adapted for TV and radio and translated into many languages. He lives in Exeter with his wife.


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Morris, a book valuer for a London auction house, lives a quiet and orderly life - or at least he does until he travels to Belmont Hall in Somerset to catalogue and value the library of the recently deceased Lord Buff-Orpington. At Belmont Hall, David spends hours immersed in his work in the library and in his spare time he walks in the lovely woods surrounding the house. Whilst he is out walking one day, David meets Professor Hunt, a seemingly eccentric and enigmatic man who lives in a cottage nearby, and when David calls at Hunt's cottage later, expecting a cordial welcome, he is surprised to be more or less rebuffed by the professor. As David turns to leave, he hears a terrifying and blood-curdling scream coming from one of the upper rooms of the cottage and, unsatisfied by the professor's explanation for the scream, he returns to the cottage later when the professor is not there. It is then that David meets Isabel, the screaming woman, and discovers the professor's rather diabolical secret. I can't say more for fear of spoiling the story, but I don't think I would giving too much away by saying there is something very much the matter with Isabel.

At one point later on in the story, Isabel asks David if she makes his skin crawl and he replies in the negative - well, I have to be honest and say that the poor woman certainly made my skin crawl - and I do mean that literally. However, that aside, after reading the synopsis of this novel on the Amazon page, I was looking forward to reading the book and I found the initial few chapters interesting and absorbing.
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By Brida TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
ISABEL'S SKIN is one of those books which start off well but then quickly take a tumble. The story is about a book valuer who is assigned to value the library of a recently deceased man. Whilst he is there, he stumbles across a house in a wood which is occupied by a seemingly eccentric scientist and a woman, who he keeps locked up.

Looking at the other reviews on Amazon, I decided to buy it because it was being described as gothic book with a murder mystery at its heart. Well, its isn't. There is a murder, but there is no mystery to it. Also, once you discover the secret of the woman who is locked away, there is very little to keep you reading. The main characters are quite insipid - David the book valuer spends more time telling you about his childhood and the relationship he has with his father, than actually focusing on the present and the main story. And Isabel, the lady at the centre of the story becomes more and more irritating as the book progresses. I do not feel that she was well thought-out or developed. The final nail in the coffin is that the ending to the whole book was sorely disappointing.

This is a book which I would struggle to recommend to anyone. Once read, it is one of those books you feel you don't need to return to. Such a shame; I was expecting so much more, based on the reviews I had read.
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Format: Hardcover
Beginning with a distinctly gentle and lyrical sequence of thoughts by a young man sent to catalogue the library of a recently deceased antiquarian book collector, this exquisitely beautiful writing gradually dissolves into a tale of grand guignol that never misses its mark or falls into mere horror. It is gorgeous throughout.

I'm not giving a hint of what is wrong with Isobel's skin, but something is. If it didn't have it's prescient narrator, it might fold into comical chaos, but Peter Benson keeps such a firm hold on the story that you know that's never going to happen.

Isobel has fallen into the hands of a madman, an experimenter, locked into his foul designs. It seems impossible that the narrator David Morris can rescue her, but an attempt to do so is made. The writing is simply gorgeous and I loved every page of this amazing book. If you think the genre distasteful or too testing, and forgo the pleasure of this book, you will miss an absolute dazzler.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was really surprised to see another reviewer on Amazon describing this as "tongue-in-cheek". In my view, this quietly unassuming novel has real depth. It can be read on two levels and, in this sense, it's a typical Peter Benson novel. Let me admit that I've been a fan of his since "The Levels" came out all those years ago. I've read all his books and, with one exception ("Two Cows..." which was fine, but not, to my mind brilliant), I've been very moved by everything he's written. Don't believe the blurb about this being a mock-gothic tale of murder. That's just the vehicle for a meditation (in PB's usual easy-on-the-ear but very thought-provoking style)on the nature of love and attraction, on how we can only truly love when we hold up a mirror to ourselves and shed the "skin" of our inhibitions ... only when we learn to accept our imperfections can we be "born again" and able to love and be loved. Isabel is much more than a curiosity, and much more than someone in need of help: she is the reflection in the narrator's mirror, through whom he learns how to love.
I was going to give it 4 stars but: a. I'm still thinking about it a few days after finishing it and b.he's earned the right to the benefit of the doubt for his body of work. So five stars it is! More important than whether this deserves three, four or five stars is the fact that PB deserves a wider audience. If you like this, you'll probably love "A Lesser Dependency", "Odo's Hanging" etc etc Keep those novels coming, PB ... I couldn't endure another seven-year wait similar to the gap between your early and later books!
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